Nanotechnology in Medical Diagnostics
Nanotechnology based diagnosis techniques under development may provide two
- Rapid testing, potentially in the doctors office. This may allow
complete diagnosis and start of treatment to be done in one visit to
the doctor, rather than needing a follow-up visit to the doctor
after a lab test is completed.
- The detection of diseases at an earlier stage than current techniques. This provides the potential of stopping a
disease earlier, possibly with less damage to the patient.
Nanotechnology based medical diagnosis techniques under development
A method for detecting cancer cells in the bloodstream is being
nanoparticles called NanoFlares. The
NanoFlares are designed bind to genetic targets in cancer cells, and
generate light when that particular genetic target is found.
Researchers are developing a nanoparticle intended to make very early detection
of cancer tumors easier. When the nanoparticles attach to a cancer tumors the
release "biomarkers", molecules called peptides. The idea is that since each
nanoparticle carries several peptides a high concentration of these
biomarkers will occur even at very early stages of cancer, allowing early
detection of the disease.
A method for early diagnosis of brain cancer under development uses magnetic
nanoparticles and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology. The
nanoparticles attach to particles in the blood stream called microvesicles
which originate in brain cancer cells. NMR is then used to detect these
microvesicle/magnetic nanoparticle clusters, allowing an early diagnosis.
Carbon nanotubes and gold nanoparticles are being used in a sensor that
indicative of oral cancer. Tests have shown this sensor to be accurate in
detecting oral cancer and provides results in less than an hour.
Researchers have developed a method to
cancer cells circulating in the blood stream. They use nanofibers
coated with antibodies that bind to cancer cells, trapping the cancer
cell for analysis.
Silver nanorods in a diagnostic system are being used to separate viruses,
bacteria and other microscopic components of blood samples, allowing clearer
Raman spectroscopy signals
of the components. This methods has been demonstrated to allow identification of
viruses and bacteria in less than an hour.
can attach to proteins or other molecules, allowing detection of
disease indicators in a lab sample at a very early stage. There are several
efforts to develop nanoparticle disease detection systems underway. One system being developed by Nanosphere, Inc. uses
clinical study results with their Verigene system involving it's ability to
detect four different nucleic acids, while another system being developed by
T2 Biosystems uses
to identify specimens, including proteins, nucleic acids, and other materials.
Gold nanoparticles that have antibodies attached
quick diagnosis of flu virus. When light is directed on a sample
containing virus particles and the nanoparticles the amount of light
reflected back increases because the nanoparticles cluster around virus
particles, allowing a much faster test than those currently used.
A method for early detection of a disease uses
that form clumps when they attach to proteins or other molecules
that indicate the disease being tested for. The test is intended to be
inexpensive and simple to perform. The solution turns blue if the nanoparticles are clumped around a protein indicating the disease, if the protein is not present the
solution is red.
Quantum Dots (qdots) may be used in the future for locating
in patients and in the near term for performing
diagnostic tests in samples.
website provides information about qdots that are available for both uses,
although at this time the use "in vivo" (in a living creature) is
limited to experiments with lab animals. Concerns about the toxicity of the
material that quantum dots are made from is one of the reasons restricting the
use of quantum dots in human patients. However, work is being done with quantum
dots composed of silicon,
which is believed to be less toxic than the cadmium contained in many quantum
Gold nanoparticles, in combination with fluorescent protein, is being
used in a system under development to
diagnosis which type
of cancer is present.
Researchers have determined that cancer cell in
the blood stream can be captured on
glass plates. Capturing these cancer cells will help researchers
understand how cancer spreads from tumors.
Iron oxide nanoparticles can used to improve MRI images of cancer tumors. The
nanoparticle is coated with a peptide that binds to a cancer tumor, once the
nanoparticles are attached to the tumor the magnetic property of the
iron oxide enhances the
images from the Magnetic Resonance Imagining scan.
Earl Boysen of Hawk's Perch Technical Writing, LLC and
UnderstandingNano.com. You can find him on